Borghesi-Mellon Workshop, “Space-Relations” (2017-2018)

Workshop website at the Center for the Humanities, UW-MadisonB

“Space-Relations” logo

We propose a workshop to put together various ways in which space is interrogated from a relational perspective. We attempt to theorize the concept of space as a transdisciplinary method to rethink and rebuild relations by examining themes of nonetheless interrelated productions of arts and literature, teaching and learning, everyday life, security, revolution, futurity, spirituality, and tradition and modernity.


Lei Zheng (ABD, Curriculum and Instruction)
Lu Liu (PhD Student, Asian Languages and Culture)
Robert Kaiser (Professor, Geography) 
Steve Ridgely (Associate Professor, Asian Languages and Culture) 

When putting together space, objects and relations into exploration, current studies tend to make space as an a priori container where relations between objects are made, or make space directly as the object to build relations. Both approaches seem to treat space as a noun rather than a verb, as receptive rather than productive, as relatively fixed and scaled rather than fluid and smooth. What is at issue here is not to contend that the latter is necessarily better, but, rather, to reassess what forces make us so used to the former and what might be opened up if we think with the latter. How do we think of space not as a container but a conductor of relations? How do we think of space not merely as a form of relations (i.e., spatial relations) but also as a method that forms relations (i.e. spatializing relations and relational spacing)?

       The interdisciplinarity as we propose here disrupts the seemingly stabilized discipline-based methodology in academia. This project does not reify space as merely an object of each discipline as in geography and architecture, nor is it content with viewing space as merely a silent container in which literary, historical and pedagogical actors and events take place. Rather, it works upon/within/through space as mattering—disconnecting and reconnecting relations among ideas, technologies, non/human bodies, places, time, etc. By doing so, we attempt to investigate how the material and symbolic ways in which we configure space also generate relations immanent to the making of space.

       This workshop engages with, but also moves beyond, representational practices of space and relations. It is to take up thinking as action rather than as re-presentation of some pre-existing order; to pay attention to what remains aside from processes and economies of representation. Therefore, we ask, how a field of knowledge of space is mobilized into and materialized through other fields of knowing and living; what kinds of space are produced to stay beside or against space that is associated with “identities”; what make possible the projection of a particular space in relation to the order of time and affect; and how projection and visualization of space change its function. Through pondering these questions, we hope this student-initiated workshop will not only blur different “fields” of knowledge/practices but also allow differences within these “fields”.


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